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State Will Let Some Businesses Slide on Cyanide

Jewelry and other manufacturers who use cyanide in their facilities and discharge that chemical in wastewater are poised to get a break from the state.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control is proposing to ease the regulation of facilities that discharge low levels of cyanide in wastewater. Cyanide is used in a wide range of industrial processes, including electroplating, oxidation, stripping of metals from products and heat treatments. It’s especially popular in the jewelry industry.

Currently, all facilities discharging cyanide must obtain a “standardized facility permit,” which requires a full public review and a formal approval process from the department. This is a costly and time-consuming process.

Under the department’s proposal, facilities that use cyanide in certain “low-concentration” processes like oxidation, electroplating and cleaning, would be authorized to use the cyanide under the department’s “Permit by Rule” program. Instead of submitting to a full review, the facilities would only have to notify the local agency participating in the state’s Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA) program usually the local fire department which would then conduct periodic inspections of the facility to ensure compliance.

In making the proposed regulation changes, the Department of Toxic Substances Control said that health and exposure risk of cyanide wastewater treatment is not high enough to merit the full review that comes with a standardized permit. In its “statement of reasons,” department staff noted that there have not been any recorded instances of accidents involving cyanide wastewater treatment in California.

The proposed rule change is now in the public comment period, which will end May 14. Then a revised regulation will be issued; it could be approved later this summer. For more information, log on to the Department of Toxic Substances Control Web site at dtsc.ca.gov and click on the “Laws, Regulations and Policies” link.


Breeders Beware!

Continuing its crackdown on sales tax scofflaws, the state Board of Equalization this month sent out thousands of letters to pet associations, pet-store owners and feed-store owners reminding them that anyone who sells pets at least twice in a 12-month period must register with the state and pay sales tax.

Board staff estimates that at least $14 million in sales taxes on the sales of pets goes uncollected each year, with most of the scofflaws among the thousands of private animal breeders.

“Not only is it the law that anyone who sells pets register with the Board of Equalization and pay their taxes, but it’s also a matter of fairness,” said board spokeswoman Anita Gore. “We need to make sure we have a level playing field, so that businesses that do register and pay their taxes are not at a competitive disadvantage.”

Gore said that board staff has estimated that only 17 percent of all pet sales originate in pet stores. The rest either take place in animal shelters (which are exempt from paying sales tax) or from private owners, including animal breeders and hobby breeders.

“We know there are an awful lot of these private breeders. All you need to do is look in the want ads of any major paper and you’ll see dozens of them,” Gore said.

This effort targeting pet sales is part of a broader program at the board to go after sellers in all industries who don’t pay their sales taxes. The board also has a campaign targeting purchasers of out-of-state products through print and online catalogs to pay sales taxes on those products.


Break for Retailers

While the Board of Equalization may be cracking down on sales tax scofflaws, it’s poised to give tens of thousands of grocers and retailers a break: Under a proposal to be debated this summer, retailers who use electronic scanners to ring up product sales will no longer have to get state approval for those scanners.

Back in 1995, the board passed a code amendment requiring that any retailer that installs an electronic scanning system must register that scanner with the board. The purpose was to make it easier for the state to track product sales.

But in practice, board staff rarely enforced this law.

“Staff’s proposal would reduce a grocer’s burden to comply with the law and would eliminate a regulatory requirement that appears to be outdated and with no consequence,” board staff argued in a discussion paper issued this month.

The business taxes committee of the Board of Equalization is set to discuss this issue at its Aug. 19 meeting. For more information, log on to boe.ca.gov and click on “Decisions Pending and Opportunities for Public Discussion” link on the left hand side, then click on the Business Taxes Committee link.


Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at

hfine@labusinessjournal.com

or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.
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